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No.16, November 2003

Educational Provision for Children with Specific Speech and Language Difficulties - the investigation of good practice

Mairi-Ann Cullen writes:

About two years, CEDAR carried out a nation-wide survey of educational provision for pupils with specific speech and language difficulties (SSLD), funded by the Nuffield Foundation. Having seen the results of that project, the Foundation has since provided further funding for a follow-up project investigating good practice. The research team, drawn from CEDAR and the Institute of Education, London, have begun work in six LEA and Health Trust pairs across England, chosen because of the examples of good practice identified in the earlier research and to represent differing patterns of provision.

The initial stage of the research builds on the information gathered in the first project and focuses on the overall system of support for pupils with SSLD at policy and management level. In each LEA, a senior LEA officer with an overview of provision for speech and language difficulties and the principal educational psychologist will be interviewed. In each Health Trust, the person in charge of the paediatric speech and language therapy service will be interviewed.

The second stage of the research focuses on exploring practice. Questionnaires and interviews with headteachers, SENCOs, educational psychologists, speech and language therapists and parents will be used to gather information on good practice at school level. In addition, fifteen children in each LEA will be selected as focus cases - interviews will be held with key staff to identify what works well for these particular children. Their Individual Education Plans (IEPs) will be scrutinised for evidence of how needs are met and monitored.

We expect that the research will identify the critical dimensions in the system that support good practice and that it will provide exemplars which will aid others to develop their own practice.

The National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth

Dimitra Hartas writes:

The National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth (NAGTY) has been established to improve educational provision for the most able young people by increasing opportunities for learning through a variety of activities and resources offered, such as masterclasses, university-based conferences, holiday schools and on-line learning experiences. The Academy's remit also includes improving educational provision in schools and widening opportunities for able students, especially those who are likely to experience a form of social disadvantage. The establishment of the NAGTY sits in the context of a number of government initiatives and programmes aimed at improving educational provision for able and highly able pupils in Britain.

Since the launching of NAGTY two years ago, CEDAR has been evaluating the Academy's functioning by looking at the expansion and refinement of its role, also the operation of the summer school which has been expanded in five locations across England over the last year. The most recent evaluation findings suggest that NAGTY has built upon the successful inaugral summer held at the University of Warwick in 2002. The majority of students who attended Summer School and thie parents feel overwhelmingly positive about the summer school experience in terms of learning, socialising and building long-term links with the Academy. Similarly, almost all course leaders stated that the running of the summer school has been a success, feeling that their involvement with the development and delivery of courses has been very rewarding personally and professionally.

There have been a number of interesting issues raised during our evaluation with respect to the diversity of the student body, co-operation between institutions regarding educational provision for gifted young people, professional development, and the need for widening advertisement for NAGTY. Finally, our evaluation has created a forum to discuss and debate issues regarding the appropriateness of the use of the label 'gifted and talented', tutors' perceptions and views of gifted pupils, and the validity of the selection process for Academy membership.

Raising Educational Standards

Geoff Lindsay writes:

Prof. Geoff Lindsay and Dr Daniel Muijs undertook a joint study with the Newham Raising Educational Standards Scrutiny Commission, focusing on the educational attainment of white, UK-born, black Caribbean and black African boys, three groups the Commission identified as particularly vulnerable for underachievement.

The project's focus was to identify schools and educational practices that appear to challenge successfully underachievement in these three groups. The project comprised three stages. Firstly, a multi-level modelling exercise was undertaken to identify those primary and secondary schools that were successful for one or more of these three groups of boys, using either end of Key Stage 2 (for Primary Schools) or GCSE results (for Secondary Schools) as outcome measures.

In the second phase comprised a conference on 23rd June for Newham Schools and other services, with keynotes from Dr Richard Majors and Roxy Harris.

This collaborative project brought together researchers, practitioners, and those engaged in local political processes, in identifying good practice. The research identified the following as key themes for consideration by the Scrutiny Commission and others.

Successful schools did not adopt a single strategy. Most popular was the whole school approach, aiming to develop policies to raise the achievement of all pupils. A minority of schools targeted the particular groups causing concern. Targeting was also used on a small scale by the majority group, e.g. a small number of specific initiatives but within the predominant whole school approach.

The approach taken appeared to reflect Newham schools' diversity and ethnicity and cultural heritage, and the diversity of pupil profile among schools within the LEA. Where a school population comprised a broader range of ethnic groups, targeting became less useful or practical as an approach.

Matching curriculum to meet these boys' needs included increasing input on directly relevant material, used school-wide as part of a policy of inclusion. Greater flexibility in Key Stage 4, e.g. use of GNVQ was also helpful in challenging underachievement.

High expectations of behaviour and academic work were emphasized, with realistic and negotiated targets which were carefully monitored. The increasing 'data richness' experienced by schools was used positively to produce useful intelligence to guide action and allow effective reviews.

Investigating Learning and Working in the Cultural Sector

Three very different projects starting in 2003 further extend the strand of work established by Dr Sheila Galloway which focuses on how people learn, work and develop in the cultural sector.

'Working and Learning in the Cultural Sector' is supported by HEFCE's HEROBC initiative as part of a University-wide programme. HEROBC helps higher education institutions increase their capability to provide opportunities for activities which facilitate knowledge transfer to business and professional communities. This includes companies of all sizes and the wider community. Sheila Galloway will explore key concerns with representatives from the cultural sector: through 'stakeholder' interviews, and with individuals in a variety of working contexts. Round table discussions will provide views about the existing infrastructure of support and development and the priorities or particular organisations. This project will consolidate links with arts organistations, and its findings will contribute to the University's Third Stream development plan and inform planning for a new short course on Working and Learning in the Cultural Sector.

Secondly, CEDAR is collaborating in a European Commission Framework 5 project called EUROCAP with the Institute for Employment Research and partners in several EU member states and Switzerland . This explores the capacity of regions and localities to develop social and economic strategies which can improve professional working lives. The UK research centres on the automotive sector and its supply chain, led by IER, and the cultural sector, led by CEDAR. Sheila Galloway is responsible for the latter and a key component of this research concerns professional development.

Thirdly, the National Association for Gallery Education, engage has set up a research partnership to support its evaluation of 'envision', a pilot action research programme. With initial support from the Callouste Gulbenkian Foundation and Carnegie UK Trust, 'envision' has raised funding from the Arts Council regional offices to stimulate new collaborative projects with youth workers, artists and representatives of arts and community organisations. It aims to encourage the participation of young people who are at risk of social exclusion or have already been excluded in some way. The initiative stresses the active involvement of young participants alongside experienced staff in shaping the projects in their evaluation. Sheila Galloway is undertaking this project jointly with Julian Stanley of the Centre for Education and Industry.

Three three new projects parallel work such as the Evaluation of the Museum and Gallery Education Programme Phase 2 for DfES where Sheila is working with CEI staff and CEDAR's on-going Evaluation for DfES of the Dance and Drama Award Scheme, to which she contributes. In different ways they build on her research in 2002 for Arts Council England: this explored artists' working lives and was reported in 'A Balancing Act'.

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